Welcome to Not Quite Entomology

Welcome to Not Quite Entomology! This is a different approach to matching the hatch, or learning which insect the fish are really eating. We hope to include the flies and methods to make it all work as well. We hope this series will inspire you to go out, look on top of and under rocks, check the stream-side vegetation, really investigate your favorite water and learn which are your local trout's favorite foods!

Tiny Winter Blacks

Old Rupe!
By Old Rupe

It's that time again. In the mid-west and east it's Allocapnia granulata, Allocapnia vivipara, Paracapnia angulata, and Nemoura albidipennis. While in the west it's a different group of stoneflies, it's Capnia gracilaris, Capnia brevicaudata, Nemoura cintipes, and Nemoura oregonensis. The former bunch hatch from the first of January to about the 10th of May, while in the west the later is mid January to about the 20th of May. These stones come off the stream in morning to midday and in general are 6-8 mm in size and range from black to dark reddish-brown. These are the 'snow flies,' which are often observed crawling on the snow banks before baseball season. It's the first of March and my friend Ron says they are doing it in Pennsylvania as we speak.

The nice thing is they all can be represented by the same fly. A nymph that is black to reddish-brown in a size 16-18. Most fish the nymph but a few do fairly well with the dry. I've seen a black monofilament nymph that I thought would hatch out on my tying table.

Allocapnia granulate

Look for these micro monsters in streams with large boulders and a lot of small gravel, generally freestone streams. Their presence is readily advertised by the presence of nymphal shucks on the stream-side rocks.

Trout seem to hang in the first drop near the shore waiting there to intercept the pre-emergence shoreward migration. A downstream wet fly to the bank presentation is usually used. The adults return to the stream in mid-day and should be fished with a drag-free drift.

I have done well fishing a glow bug egg tie with a wide gap size 18 hook. I can't recall ever observing another fly fisher using miniature egg patterns during a mayfly or a stonefly egg laying event. Maybe my recollection was clouded. Surely others would have tried this, if it worked we would have seen it in the literature.

I use a 5-6X tippet and have seldom discussed this under-fished winter event while my circulation would permit my participation.

Even in streams that seem to support few other stonefly species I usually could observe the shucks of tiny winter blacks on the stream-side rocks.

Stoneflies (Plecoptera) are a serious source of trout nourishment where they are present, and early in the year before the Baetis appear they may be the best act going. The stone fly nymphs will be recognized by the double set of wing pads. Mayflies only have one set. I tie all my early stones with one set of wing pads and the trout never seem to notice. I never could count the tails, so instead of two fibers I just tie in a small bunch.

Remember even if a stonefly hatch is not happening trout will tend to feed on the predominate prey that is present. A stonefly is usually there.

Early on, fish a black or reddish-brown stonefly, un-weighted, in a size 16-18 swinging it from midstream to the bank wet fly style and never forget that even when it snows the trout are there. They just never learned to vacation in Florida. Old Rupe

PS: I use a black Pott's tie with a red floss stitch and black bear hair for the hackle. The body is natural black sheep. I tie it larger than life in a 14.

Special credit to: Aquatic Entomology by W. Patrick McCafferty, published by Jones and Bartlett for the illustration in this article.

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